Originally signed on the air on September 28, 1953, less than a week before KGGM-TV (channel 13, now KRQE). It was locally owned by Albert M. Cadwell & Walter Stiles. The local owners sold the station to Alvarado Television (the owner of KVOA in Tucson) in 1957.
By this point, the "Circle 7" began to bear, more or less, a resemblance to what it is today. Steinman sold both KOAT and KVOA to the Pulitzer Publishing Company, the then-owner of KSD-TV (now KSDK) in St. Louis, in 1969. This made KOAT Pulitzer's second television station acquisition outside of its home city of St. Louis; the KOAT acquisition was consummated a year after Pulitzer closed on its purchase of KVOA. A decade later, the other two Steinman stations were sold to Pulitzer as well, reuniting them with KOAT (KVOA was spun off in 1972).
Station ID used in news open (1989–1994)
"Something's Happening on Channel 7"
KOAT adopted the slogan "New Mexico's News Leader" by this time, which remained until 1999.
The standard "Circle 7" logo used by other owned-and-operated stations was introduced for this station in 1994.